One of the problems faced by the Philippines is what I might call the ignorance of poverty. I don't mean ignorance in a negative sense, and maybe there are better words for the condition that I am trying to characterized. Uninformed, perhaps. Uneducated. An innocent lack of exposure to other ways to behave. Lack of awareness. Some would say lazy minds, but that is negative.
Here's what I am talking about. Western standards of order on the highways hold to certain rules, those cited in the regulatory codes that dictate who has the "right of way" in a given situation. A vehicle turning left must yield to a vehicle coming straight, but the turning vehicle has the right of way over a car approaching it from behind. These rules allow each driver to understand what the other will do; this prevents frequent gnashings of metal and huge hospital bills.
The Philippines has essentially the same written codes, but a very different, unwritten interpretation of them. The bigger vehicle is generally acceded the right of way, a truck over a car, a car over a motorcycle, a motorcycle over a human powered tricycle. That is not written anywhere, but that is what happens. Some Filipinos claim the right of way by driving fast, careening about so that any sane opposing driver would head for the rice field rather than try to claim his rightful side of the road. Others flash their lights, essentially telling other drivers, "I'm coming, stay out of my way." And pedestrians know never, never trust that the painted crosswalk will afford any protection unless a traffic official is there to stand up for you.
And the greater part of the Philippines is exposed to no order but this inconsiderate order.
"Who cares? It is our society", some Filipinos argue. "You Americans are wasteful hogs who don't care a whit about others."
Ouch. Worthy argument. Score 2.
But this relentless self-engagement is what prevents the Philippines from being productive, from having jobs, from gaining wealth and the safety and security that wealth provides. Western business people recognize that people are "markets" because they have needs. A business fares better by serving those needs than by being brusque or autocratic. The number of autocrats in business in the Philippines is simply astounding. And this self-engagement precludes certain aspects of efficiency, such as the understanding that appointments make things operate better for all parties. Again, like a broken record, or scratched CD . . . from efficiency . . . Comes productivity, profits and jobs. The Filipino merchant seems unaware that a smile brings a customer back. Jolibee is the exception; cheerful staff.